My Story: Updating Kitchen Cupboards
Reviving Pressboard Cabinets
Advice on Wood Finishes
What should I do with oak cabinets that the varnish has come off in many spots, especially around the door handles? Yes, there are some dark spots on the wood due to handling! Do the cabinets need to be completely sanded? Can this be done by a homeowner or is it a job for a professional? I would really appreciate any help on this one.
Yes, a homeowner can do this, potentially without sanding the entire door.
Consideration needs to be made for the door style (flat or raised panel etc.), but in most cases, if the finish is varnish, spot sanding and recovering will usually blend well. If this is a urethane or some other type of finish, the entire cabinet will probably need to be sanded and refinished. I have found Peel Away products, although not the least expensive, is the most cost-effective solution for stripping of old finishes from surfaces that are wanted to be refinished with stain and urethane coatings.
I had the same problem. My cabinets were over 30 years old with some kind of yellow pine finish. I did sand them lightly, but what really did the job was a wonderful sanding primer that I got at Sherwin Williams. I'm very frugal about everything, except paint. I've found that Sherwin Williams' products go on smoother and wear very well. I put on two coats of the primer and then painted the cabinets. I bought great hardware at a local merchandise liquidator. The cabinets look great, better than new!
Debbie in TX
There is no one correct answer to this question. Are you a very meticulous person? If so, then I suggest you refinish the cabinet. Are you willing to accept a moderately broad range of good final finishes? If so, have it done. If you have a fairly large tolerance for the quality of the outcome, do it yourself.
If you go for doing the refinish yourself, then get a good quality, chemical "stripper." Follow the directions very carefully. Wear protective clothing and safety glasses while you work. Do this outdoors as stripper produces unpleasant, possibly harmful, fumes. For stubborn spots, you will want to use very fine bronze, not steel, wool.
After all the old finish is removed, sand the surface a couple of times. Sand the first time with a fine 180-grit paper. (If there are deep scratches, start with a 120-grit paper and then 180-grit.) Wipe down the surface with a rag and repeat with 220-grit paper. Then wipe the surface with a tack rag. Following the manufacturer's directions, apply the first coat of finish. Allow this to dry completely before applying a second coat.
We just redid our wood cabinets. We used a liquid varnish stripper. The old walnut finish darkened and was gummy in places. We simply stripped it and polyed over the doors. They are now beautiful and possibly birch. This was a lot less work than sanding.
I'm a professional handyman, and can restore a kitchen in a few hours using this procedure. When we moved into our present home about three years ago, my wife thought we would have to replace all the cabinets. With the "Restor-A-Finish," the cabinets look like new to this day.
I think I can come up with a solution that would be easily handled by a homeowner. I have refinished a lot of furniture. I am assuming that your cabinets are real wood and probably finished with lacquer if the finish has worn off.
Go to Wal-Mart (or similar store) and pick up a kit of Facelift by Homer Formby. I think it runs $17.95. Take a drawer, remove the handle, put the end over some newspaper, wax paper or foil, and follow the instructions on the box. The kit has a cleaner, buffer, and finish.
I just finished a grubby "keepsake" breadbox for someone, and it came out looking brand new. It took very little work and time. Also, I did the base of a buffet that went through a tornado in a few hours.
Follow the timing exactly and make sure you use two coats or more of the wipe on finish. You can clean your handles with Castrol, which is in automotive departments. I actually sprayed Castrol on my bathroom vanity oak cupboard. When wiped off with a wet towel, years of hair spray and imbedded dust disappeared.
When we bought the cheapest house in a nice neighborhood close to our offices, we had a lot of remodeling to do, starting with the kitchen. We primed right over our wood cabinets, and then painted two coats of a light stone/sage green color. Then I sanded the corners off to give a distressed look and rubbed on some dark stain. To finish, I added a clear coat and new hardware. Many other families have paid a finisher to do it, but after a few test pieces on random boards, I got the look I wanted!
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